I swapped my office chair for a standing desk - here’s what I’ve learnt after 30 days

Standing Desk
(Image credit: Unsplash - TheStandingDesk)

The best standing desks have been a hot ticket item ever since the pandemic hit as the world went into lockdown and hybrid working/work from home became the norm, and stay-at-home workers bought the best office chairs and laptop docking stations in their millions. 

Fast forward to 2023 and standing desks have moved on from being an object of curiosity to a desirable, central piece of furniture in a home office. 

A recent survey carried out by OnePulse in partnership with TechRadar Pro hinted at penetration levels of up to 15% across the general population, and nearly two thirds of those who responded chose a standing desk instead of a normal desk to improve their posture. That was also the reason why I decided to dump my office chair and, well, stand up at my standing desk, something I have embraced since the beginning of the year, the desktop permanently perched 111 cm above the floor. 

Here are some of the things I’ve learnt in my many weeks of standing:

1. Standing at a desk may not be for everyone

Adopting a vertical position for several hours at a time can be taxing for your body, so you may want to take it easy, especially if it's your first time doing so. 

A report by the Harvard Medical School lists some of the side effects that may come with standing up for prolonged periods: risk of developing back, leg or foot pain. 

The publication also advocates gradually shifting from sitting to standing, something I didn’t do. My change in posture was done overnight and - touching the wooden part of the desktop - I haven’t suffered from backache.

2. The importance of your soles

I am a flip-flop guy; I own several pairs and find them practical, easy to clean, affordable and above all, fantastically comfortable even when wearing thick socks. 

I owe my current run of standing at a standing desk for weeks to a well worn rubber pair that have been shaped to fit the arched soles of my feet perfectly. Reliably distributing the pressure of standing up uniformly (and therefore reducing pressure on my heels) may have turned out to be the key to long-term standing. 

Alternatively a yoga mat or something similar could work.

3. Standing at your desk makes it easier to move around

I don’t know about you, but I’ve sometimes found it hard to stand up when sitting, either out of apathy or laziness, especially after a heavy meal. 

Dozing away when slumped even in an office chair is something that one cannot do when standing. I found myself being more alert and - perhaps more importantly - more ready to move around to take all important breaks. It’s one fewer step to take to get things done. 

This is actually backed by a 2018 research carried out by teams from the University of Leicester and Loughborough University, who found out that standing desk makes employees more engaged.

4. Don’t try to use a walking pad when working

I invested in a walking pad over the 2020 lockdown, but like so many aspirations, walking at home was quickly abandoned within months. 

Fast forward to 2023 and I’ve started doing light sessions with my walking pad (or under-desk treadmills as my TechRadar colleagues call them). I heeded the advice of one of my fellow writers and shoved the walking pad under the standing desk. 

Just don’t try to work when walking as it is just non conducive and potentially dangerous. Instead, visit the world from the comfort of your office and do virtual walks in the English countryside, in the rain in Tokyo, Soho or Venice.

5. Having a permanent high desk creates extra space

One interesting aspect I discovered was the extra space under the high desk is fairly substantial (about 0.7 cubic meters by my calculations) which is enough for a lot of storage. You could even park your kid’s desk underneath so that they don’t feel alone when mum or dad are working or on a video conference call.

6. A stool, drafting chair or yoga block could be a good investment

For those nervous about the idea of never sitting down again, here are some suggestions. Invest in a high chair or a drafting chair to help cure your sitting fears as you transition to standing. Once you’ve embraced that position permanently see whether you can get a yoga block or something similar in shape and weight. A hand-cranked standing desk might also be your best bet if, like me, you’re likely to be permanently adopting a position.

I’m never going back to sitting at a desk (unless when I'm in the office). Standing up did improve my posture (i.e. straightened back) but it works hand in hand with having the right setup. For me that meant having a big screen (a 43-inch 4K TV-turned-monitor) with its top bezel roughly at the same height as me. roughly at eye level and pushed against the wall so that it gives me ample space for typing. At ease, my forearms are perfectly horizontal on the desk’s top, with my fingers not having to overstretch to reach the keyboard. 

Although a lot of it will be subjective and depending on your physical make-up, I now feel I have better balance, am more active and content knowing that I am losing about 1000 extra calories per month simply by standing up.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.